VICTORY: Virginia County to Pay $500k for Blocking Muslim Cemetery

WASHINGTON, DC — On Friday, a Muslim nonprofit agreed to accept a $500,000 settlement payment from Stafford County, VA. The Stafford County Board of Supervisors and Stafford County, VA, previously voted 4-2 to settle a religious freedom lawsuit brought forth by the All Muslim Association of America Inc. (AMAA) after the county abruptly changed its rules to block construction on a Muslim cemetery. AMAA is represented by Muslim Advocates and Milbank LLP.

AMAA is a Virginia-based nonprofit organization that provides low-cost burial and funeral services to local Muslim families in need. Anticipating that its existing cemetery was nearing capacity, AMAA bought a parcel of land in Stafford County zoned for cemetery use by-right. In response, the Stafford County Board of Supervisors hastily amended the county’s cemetery ordinance to block construction on the cemetery. In June 2020, AMAA sued the county. The U.S. Department of Justice also filed a lawsuit against the county. In response, the Board of Supervisors voted to repeal the new ordinances in October 2020. Although the repeal was a welcome development, AMAA continued its legal proceedings to ensure that the cemetery would be approved and obtain compensation for the unnecessary legal costs incurred due to the county and board’s discriminatory actions. 

“As with all religions, it is incredibly important for Muslims to be buried in accordance with our faith and AMAA’s mission is to help people without means accomplish that. It is also our spiritual duty as Muslims to serve our community. Without a new cemetery, we would be unable to fulfill that duty,” said Mossadaq Chughtai, board member of the All Muslim Association of America. “Hopefully, we can put this whole ordeal behind us and begin construction knowing that religious liberty has prevailed. We hope that our fight allows all people, regardless of their faith, to be able to do the same in Stafford County.”

“Religious freedom has won the day for now. This settlement should serve as a warning that hate does not pay. Instead of respecting AMAA’s rights from the start, members of the board wasted years and lost hundreds of thousands of dollars defending anti-Muslim bigotry,” said Muslim Advocates Interim Legal Director Naomi Tsu. “We thank the members of the board who voted for an amicable end to this action, and we also whole-heartedly thank our legal partners at Milbank LLP and the U.S. Department of Justice for their tireless efforts in this case. We look forward to AMAA starting construction on a new cemetery that allows people with limited means to be buried in accordance with their faith. Muslim Advocates stands ready to defend AMAA once again if bigotry presents roadblocks to their plans.”

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Muslim Advocates is a national civil rights organization working in the courts, in the halls of power and in communities to halt bigotry in its tracks. We ensure that American Muslims have a seat at the table with expert representation so that all Americans may live free from hate and discrimination.